The Superior Health Benefits of Prolon FMD by Dr. Valter Longo
The reason that the health benefits of Prolon FMD, a fasting mimicking diet system conceived by Dr. Valter Longo, is superior to nearly any other one thing you can do is because it enables your cells to rejuvenate and thereby give you greater health and slow down the aging process. Find out why that happens, and how you can experience this yourself.
In an eye-opening scientific study, Dr. Valter Longo demonstrated the superior health benefits of Prolon FMD . Turns out, the Prolon Fasting Mimicking Diet (FMD) confers the same health and longevity benefits as fasting, or sustained caloric restriction — neither of which is sustainable.
How is this possible?
What's In This Post:
Let’s dig in…
Fasting Mimicking Diet is a name coined by one of the world’s greatest experts on the benefits derived by fasting, Dr. Valter Longo, the Edna M. Jones Professor of Gerontology and Biological Sciences and Director of the Longevity Institute at the University of Southern California.
FMDs are a type of periodic fasting that is not really fasting, if what you mean by fasting is no food at all, the typical definition. In the case of a FMD, you do eat, but what you eat is very, very specific.
During a FMD:
- The calories ingested are very low, low enough to put you into a large caloric deficit;
- The proportion of macronutrients (fats, carbs and proteins) are very specific; and
- The micronutrients (that which makes up the macronutrients) are primarily plant-based, low in carbs/sugar and high in unsaturated fats.
The amounts and proportions of these macronutrient and micronutrients are carefully designed to make your body think that you’re fasting — not eating at all, and therein lies the health recouping, age-defying benefits of FMD.
But I’m getting ahead of myself a bit.
Before we get into the benefits of FMDs, let’s lay some groundwork about the benefits of actually fasting (water, but no food.) and caloric restriction.
Many scientific studies that involve a variety of different organisms (yeast, worms, fruit flies, mice, monkeys) proved that fasting and caloric restriction can extend lifespan and protect against different age-associated diseases.
In its review of various studies about fasting, Healthline named these health benefits:
- Promotes Blood Sugar Control by Reducing Insulin Resistance
- Promotes Better Health by Fighting Inflammation
- May Enhance Heart Health by Improving Blood Pressure, Triglycerides and Cholesterol Levels
- May Boost Brain Function and Prevent Neurodegenerative Disorders
- Aids Weight Loss by Limiting Calorie Intake and Boosting Metabolism
- Increases Growth Hormone Secretion, Which Is Vital for Growth, Metabolism, Weight Loss and Muscle Strength
- Could Delay Aging and Extend Longevity
- May Aid in Cancer Prevention and Increase the Effectiveness of Chemotherapy
There are, however, a few issues with fasting or restricting calories by about 30%, the typical reduction used in caloric restriction studies:
- No one wants to do it
- You could become malnourished
- Weight loss could be too rapid
- Blood pressure might become too low
- You might experience hypoglycemia
All of this begs the question that Dr. Valter Longo answered. The question: Could some assemblage of food mimic fasting when consumed? Longo’s answer: Yes, the ProLon Fasting Mimicking Diet does just that.
And therein lies the beauty of FMDs, specifically Dr. Longo’s ProLon FMD — you get the benefits of fasting while still eating food, although less of it.
The fasting mimicking diet has been devised such that it can promote the effects of fasting through a specific dietary composition that provides essential nourishment and minimizes the burden and side effects associated with water-only fasting.
The ProLon FMD consists of:
- Nine to ten percent protein,
- Fifty to 60% unsaturated fats (mostly), and
- Thirty to 40% carbohydrates
Over the course of five consecutive days, you open a box containing the food for the day and eat the designated meals: breakfast, lunch and dinner.
The calories are restricted:
- Day 1 — about 110
- Day 2 thru 5 — about 800
(This is a screen shot. Go to ProLon.com to learn more about the health benefits of ProLon FMD.)
In the ProLon FMD, the food combinations are explicitly designed to exploit our body’s innate ability to regenerate itself at the cellular level.
Initially while on the FMD, the glycogen in your liver will get broken down into glucose, which is used as fuel by the body. When the glycogen is depleted, other molecules are used such as pyruvate, glycerol and amino acids. Once these stools are depleted the body then undergoes a so-called “metabolic switch”; the switch is from the molecules just mentioned to the use of fatty acids (fats) as a source of energy. The breakdown of these fatty acids results in the production of ketone bodies. Higher levels of ketone bodies and low levels of glucose can be detected in the blood to show that the protected state of fasting has been entered.
The term “protected state” refers to the intercellular molecular signaling pathways that are affected by fasting. The reduction of glucose that happens during the ProLon Fasting Mimicking Diet, in addition to the reduction of amino acids, reduces signaling through the mammalian target of rapamycin, known as mTOR.
The mTOR pathway usually promotes cellular growth and protein production within a cell, but this is reversed during a FMD, as underscored by a reduction in the levels of IGF-1, which I’ll address later.
And another big thing happens during a FMD — a family of proteins called sirtuins (the so-called “longevity genes”) are activated.
The sirtuins activate various cellular stress responses, such as:
- The transcription factor FOXO. (FOX proteins are a family of transcription factors that play important roles in regulating the expression of genes involved in cell growth, proliferation, differentiation, and longevity.)
- The upregulation of autophagy, a fundamental cellular process for degrading and recycling cellular components.
- Ribosomal biogenesis (the making of ribosomes, which are a minute particle consisting of RNA and associated proteins found in large numbers in the cytoplasm of living cells).
- Various cellular protection genes, including antioxidant enzymes.
Scientists think that this metabolic switch enables the replacement of damaged components within a cell, and the destruction of damaged cells. This takes time, and so the ProLon FMD is done over five days.
So, at this point you may still be wondering how all this happens while you’re still eating something? I mean, the health benefits cited are clearly within the domain of fasting, not when eating, right?
Clearly, that was the conventional wisdom, but Dr. Longo turned that on its head. He demonstrated that, to put it simply, the ProLon FMD is thought to work because it rejuvenates the cells.
That explanation is very unscientific, so let’s delve a bit deeper into what’s happening on this FMD, and during fasting in general. Perhaps nothing rejuvenates the body quite as well as stem cells, so let’s begin with them.
Stem cells are cells that can divide continuously, but also differentiate into different cells. They’re in different tissues throughout your body, and help to regenerate tissues and replace cells. This is evident in various FMD studies using mice.
In mice, it’s been shown that the ProLon FMD can affect tissue regeneration in multiple different organs. For example, the FMD can:
- Drive cell renewal of hematopoietic stem cells in the immune system. (An immature cell that can develop into all types of blood cells, including white blood cells, red blood cells, and platelets.)
- Increase mesenchymal stem cells in the bone marrow. (Multipotent adult stem cells that are present in multiple tissues, including umbilical cord, bone marrow and fat tissue.)
- Increase neurogenesis and brain tissue.
- Promote expression of cells associated with muscle stem cells.
- Lead to the regeneration of insulin producing beta cells within the pancreas.
Given all these benefits shown in mice on the ProLon FMD led to conjecture that it could likewise benefit humans experiencing a variety of different ailments, including Alzheimer’s, cancer, cardiovascular disease and diabetes.
Clinical trials on humans are currently in progress to understand how FMD could be used to ameliorate these different diseases, and the results so far are promising. What we know in mouse models is that the FMD is stimulating a rejuvenation process whereby you end up with a true reversal and reactivation of dormant stem cells, as opposed to just blocking cholesterol synthesis, or lowering blood glucose levels with statins or diabetes drugs, which do not fix the problem, as they address the symptoms, not the original problem.
One of the best FMD studies on humans is a 2017 publication entitled Fasting-mimicking diet and markers/risk factors for aging, diabetes, cancer, and cardiovascular disease conducted by Dr. Valter Longo and his team. It appears that it was this study that proved Longo’s FMD prescription worked, and led to the development of his ProLon Fasting Mimicking Diet that has now been used by thousands of people.
the paper summarizes a randomized human clinical study involving 100 people, aged 20 to 70 years old. Of them, 71 completed three FMD cycles in three consecutive months, five days for each month. Five to seven days after completion, the subjects were evaluated to determine the effects of the FMD on risk factors and markers for aging.
The results of the study was a reduction in:
- Body weight
- Body fat
- Blood pressure
- LDL (the “bad” cholesterol)
Remember that I mentioned IGF-1 earlier as related to activating growth pathways within a cell, and now I want to address it further.
IGF-1 stands for Insulin-like Growth Factor. It gets produced in the liver by the stimulation of human growth hormone. The role of IGF-1 is to promote the growth, survival, and proliferation of all cells, especially muscle, cartilage, bone, nerves, skin, and neurons, depending on what the body needs for growth.
This is great when you’re young and growing, but it’s more nuanced when you’re older and looking to slow down the aging process. In part, this is because for cellular rejuvenation to happen, cells need to be in a repair mode (such as that instigated by autophagy), not in a growth mode. Suffice to say here, relative to FMD, you want IGF-1 to get lower. For more about IGF-1, read Dr. Josh Axe’s Benefits & Dangers of IGF-1.
According to 2020 data from the American Cancer Society, men have a 40%, and for women, the odds are slightly lower at 39%. A 2011 study from MetLife, the insurance company, suggests that cancer is the most-feared disease among adults in America, with 41% of survey subjects indicating concern about developing the disease.
Can FMD help with cancer?
The fast answer is perhaps, but I don’t want to pump up expectations; let’s review the science.
Eleanor Sheeky, the PhD student behind the video below, is a cancer researcher, so this question about the usefulness of FMD on cancer is of particular interest to her. As you can see in the video at timestamp 9:26, she cites a 2020 study that randomized 131 patients with breast cancer to either a FMD or their regular diet for three days prior to and during chemotherapy.
The conclusion is that those who underwent a fasting mimicking diet had a partial response or a radiologically complete response to the chemotherapy greater than the control group. Moreover, the FMD group had reduced chemotherapy induced DNA damage in their T cells (a critical part of the immune system).
One explanation of the enhanced effects of combining chemotherapy with the FMD is from what is called “differential stress resistance”. Once you get into a starved state the cells enter a highly protected state, but cancer cells circumvent this and continue to grow. The hypothesis is that although chemotherapy acts on both cancer cells and normal cells by inducing a so-called non-grave protective state of the cells, the combination of chemotherapy and FMD selectively targets the cancerous cells and reduces the side effects associated with chemotherapy. This line of reasoning needs to be validated in much larger clinical studies, in addition to trying to apply FMD to much larger cohorts, and to other age-associated diseases.
Now that you have some background information about the health benefits of Prolon FMD and how it works, you’ll be better able to understand the following video by biochemist Eleanor Sheeky.
- What is FMD? – 00:42
- How does FMD work? – 03:20
- Why does FMD work? (The science behind) – 05:35
- Human data – 07:18
- Cancer & chemotherapy – 09:23
- Further questions – 10:30
Remember these four things:
- Fasting and sustained caloric restriction activates cellular pathways that direct cells to regenerate. But most people will not go without food for the five days or more for this to happen, or to live their life under-eating.
- Through a precise combination of the right portions of macro and micronutrients, fasting mimicking diets, such as ProLon, activate the same cellular pathways as fasting or sustained caloric restriction.
- ProLon has been shown to help people lose weight, get metabolically healthy and improve various biomarkers associated with aging.
- You can learn more about ProLon from a page on this website devoted to it, or from the ProLon website.
Your next step is to see if the ProLon Fasting Mimicking Diet is for you, and to read Dr. Longo’s book, The Longevity Diet.
The Longevity Diet, Dr Valter Longo
Science Translational Medicine 15 Feb 2017: Vol. 9, Issue 377, eaai8700 DOI: 10.1126/scitranslmed.aai8700 Nencioni, A., Caffa, I., Cortellino, S. et al. Fasting and cancer: molecular mechanisms and clinical application. Nat Rev Cancer 18, 707–719 (2018). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41568-018-00…
Longo, V.D., Di Tano, M., Mattson, M.P. et al. Intermittent and periodic fasting, longevity and disease. Nat Aging 1, 47–59 (2021). https://doi.org/10.1038/s43587-020-00…
de Groot, S., Lugtenberg, R.T., Cohen, D. et al. Fasting mimicking diet as an adjunct to neoadjuvant chemotherapy for breast cancer in the multicentre randomized phase 2 DIRECT trial. Nat Commun 11, 3083 (2020). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41467-020-16…